Run, run, run, run, Runaway

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DULUTH, Ga. (AP) – The story of runaway bride Jennifer Wilbanks is becoming a rock opera.

The show is scheduled to open in October at Duluth’s Red Clay Theatre and Arts Center.

Mark Pitt, the theater’s owner, says the show will not spoof Wilbanks’ infamous disappearance before her scheduled 2005 wedding. Instead, it will show how the community came together and bonded over the experience, which included a massive search for Wilbanks before she turned up a few days later.

Wilbanks and her then-fiance, John Mason, will only be minor characters, Pitt said.

“The story is more about the city and the tenacity and camaraderie of its citizens,” he said.

Initial reactions to the upcoming show have been mixed, ranging from laughter to shock.

“When some people hear about the show, their chins drop to the floor,” Pitt said. “Other people, they just laugh. Some people worry that it will be harmful to the family, but that is not at all our intention.”

Wilbanks got her nickname “runaway bride” after fleeing before her wedding and making up a story about being kidnapped and sexually assaulted. Actually, she got cold feet and fled to New Mexico. She later recanted, saying she ran away because of personal issues, and pleaded no contest to telling police a phony story.

She was sentenced to two years’ probation and performed community service that included mowing the lawns at public buildings.

Wilbanks and Mason later ended their engagement and filed lawsuits against each other, which were dropped last month.



SALT LAKE CITY (AP) – Firefighters have been forced to abandon a busy station because it’s infested with bedbugs.

The pests were first discovered in November after two firefighters reported bites, spokesman Dennis McKone said.

Station House No. 2 downtown was vacated for a week and sprayed, but that didn’t solve the problem. Four subsequent sprayings still have not killed the bugs, McKone said.

The department is removing carpets from living quarters and installing linoleum. All beds and bedding have been swapped out.

Officials believe a nearby homeless shelter, where firefighters and paramedics are often sent, may be the source.

“Our understanding is they’ve had quite a problem with bedbugs,” McKone said.

Bedbugs hide in mattresses, bedding, crevices and even behind loose wallpaper. The flat, wingless creatures get no larger than ladybugs and do not carry disease.



BENSALEM, Pa. (AP) – Stephen Wilkinson was feeding 50 cents a pull into a slot machine at a new Pennsylvania casino when the machine lit up and started blaring music.

An on-screen message told Wilkinson – by name – that he had won $102,000 in a power play jackpot. The woman next to him screamed with excitement.

But Wilkinson’s six-figure payday was short-lived. Casino officials soon informed the retired carpenter that the message was sent in error.

“They offered me two comps for the buffet,” said a deflated Wilkinson.

Wilkinson suffered his reversal of fortune on Monday, less than a month after 2,100 slot machines went into operation at Philadelphia Park, a racetrack just outside Philadelphia.

Philadelphia Park spokesman Andrew Becker confirmed that Wilkinson had received the message on a Wheel of Fortune slot machine. Wilkinson’s name appeared in the message because he was using a casino-issued players card to track his bets.

“It was just an error in the communication system – an unfortunate one, I might add,” Becker said.

He noted that all machines carry a disclaimer telling players that machine malfunctions void all pays and plays. But he acknowledged that the mistake appears to have been in the casino’s computerized in-house communications system, not in the machine.

Wilkinson, who said he had visited the casino about 15 times, has filed a complaint with Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board.

“If this is a violation of internal controls, they (the casino) will be heavily fined and sanctioned,” board spokesman Doug Harbach said.



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CHICAGO (AP) – The most imaginative Super Bowl ad might not appear on television, but on Jennifer Gordon’s pregnant belly.

The self-professed “die hard” Chicago Bears fan is offering up her nearly nine-months pregnant belly space for advertisers to paint. She’ll showcase it at the Feb. 4 Super Bowl, when the Bears play the Indianapolis Colts in Miami.

All the Chicago woman wants in exchange is two tickets to the game.

Gordon, a publicist, has posted ads online on eBay and Craigslist detailing the ploy.

“I will agree to have your message painted on my belly visible to Super Bowl attendees and the millions of fans around the world who watch,” her Craigslist ad reads.

The going rate for Super Bowl tickets is currently $3,000 to $5,000.

Gordon and her husband Mitch have already booked flights to Florida and have a place to stay. She also has a doctor’s note giving her permission to fly, she said.

“I thought it was brilliant,” Mitch Gordon said. “It’s certainly cheaper than a Super Bowl ad. Isn’t this what fanatics do?”

So far, Gordon has received about 45 inquiries.

The 35-year-old mom-to-be has only one condition.

“I have my standards,” she said. “It can’t have anything to do with Indianapolis or the Colts.”

AP-ES-01-25-07 0547EST

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